Romans 8:1-8 and the Inability of Man…

 

By Anthony W. Brooks

**This is actually a “vintage” article from the old website. But I believe that it addresses the recent challenges that Dr. Leighton Flowers raised on his YouTube channel about the common Calvinist understanding of Romans 8:1-8. Does Romans 8:1-8 address how one goes from being in the flesh to being in the spirit? If so does is say that this process is irresistibly caused by God? Our answer is, no, 4 verses (5-8 in which he is referring to) do not address this massive question. But the entire Bible might. We call this “Tota Scriptura”.**

One day I was messing around on a debate page on Facebook and I came across a post over Total Depravity. It was asking Calvinists which verses best supported the doctrine. I saw many of the classic responses: Romans 3, John 8, Ezekiel 36-37, Ephesians 2:1-4… But I didn’t see my favorite, Romans 8:1-8 on the list… So I decided to post it.
Well, to my surprise, Leighton Flowers (pre-doctorate) was responding to the comments and he responds to mine. The man can normally talk, but this time it was a short conversation that basically ended in his saying that Romans 8 doesn’t say enough to support this assumption.
I was surprised because I believe that it does say enough. So, in the words of Dr. Flowers, let’s unpack it:

Romans 8:1-8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

This text is packed with truth from God. We have a contrast between the Life in the Spirit and the Life in the Flesh.

Life in the Spirit: they are set free, the law is fulfilled in them, they set their mind on the things of the Spirit, they have life and peace…

Life in the Flesh: they are condemned, they cannot fulfill the law, they set their mind on things of the flesh, they only have death, they are hostile to God, the will not and cannot submit to God’s law, they cannot please God.

Some say that the only application is the regenerated church member who has fallen into sin is this fleshly individual… But remember what they get, “death”. A regenerated individual will not get death… And the unbeliever will still live according to the flesh anyways because he doesn’t have the Spirit to live in.

But let’s focus in on the ability aspect for a moment. We have one aspect of this fleshly, carnal, individual that is pointed out here. That aspect is that they cannot please God. So I want to point out what the non-Calvinist says we must do to find salvation in the simplest of terms: Humility, Faith, and Repentance.

Humility is the act of denying oneself and humbling oneself to recieve his Grace. James 4:6 says “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”” so this is something we must do to be saved. Well according to David, humility is pleasing to God, Psalm 149:4 “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” And no one will deny this.

Second is faith. Faith is an obvious requirement, Ephesians 2:8-9. And faith is the instrument by which we live. So it is extremely important to us and our relationship with God. Hebrews 11:6 says this, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” That blatant statement is a repellent to the carnal man. He doesn’t have faith, it must be given, he can’t have it because he is an enemy of God.

The last thing is repentance. So much is said about Repentance… My favorite being Psalm 51 where verses 16-17 say this, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
So in this text, God is pleased with a broken and contrite heart (aka a repentant heart). And David spends the whole text repenting and being broken in his heart.

Now these three things are the items that Dr. Flowers would see as requirements of salvation. Humility, Faith and Repentance. All of them are pleasing to God, and the text says clearly that the carnal man cannot do them, because they are pleasing. They cannot do them unless the Lord gives them to him effectually. So I disagree with the assumption that this text doesn’t support Total Inability.

Soli Deo Gloria!

What is a Protestant?

Pierr Bruneau

(1689 London Baptist)

There are many people out there who think that the word Protestant is only negative word of opposition, and Roman Catholics often criticize the Reformation as being only a negative movement of protest based on this one word. This, however, ignores both the historical reality of what happened when Protestants were first called Protestants and the meaning of the word itself.
The historical reality is that the Second Diet of Speyer in Germany sought to forbid any further reforms in what was called the Holy Roman Empire. As a result the princes of the Lutheran states, known as the Protestant princes, opposed this and wrote the Letter of Protestation. But this was not just a protest; it was an affirmation of their right and duty to proclaim the gospel and to stand on the word of God when it was contradicted by the words of men. They believed firmly that when the law of God and the laws of men contradicted each-other “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore, the protest resulted because they saw that the liberty to proclaim what they affirmed was endangered, and not the other way around. The Second Diet of Speyer in 1529 sought to repeal the Edict of Toleration from the previous Diet of Speyer in 1526 which allowed the free exercise of religion until a General Council was held. The Protestant princes saw that this repeal would mean the death of many Protestants throughout the empire. Their protest was actually a stand on the word of God for religious freedom, and the freedom to obey one’s conscience rather than the tyrannical laws of men.
When it comes to the word Protestant, it is important to note that the meanings of words often change or shift over time. This is what happened with the word protest which has led to some confusion as to what a Protestant actually is. The word Protestant comes from two words: Pro-testari. The word testari meant to testify, and the word pro meant forth, and thus a Protestant was one who testifies forth. The Online Etymology Dictionary shows us how this word has changed over time. It says, ” protest (n.) c. 1400, “avowal, pledge, solemn declaration,” from Old French protest (Modern French prôtet), from preotester, and directly from Latin protestari “declare publicly, testify, protest,” from pro- “forth, before” (from PIE root *per- (1) “forward,” hence “in front of, before”) + testari “testify,” from testis “witness” (see testament). Meaning “statement of disapproval” first recorded 1751; adjectival sense of “expressing of dissent from, or rejection of, prevailing mores” is from 1953, in reference to U.S. civil rights movement. First record of protest march is from 1959.” When it comes to the verb protest it says the following: “protest (v.) mid-15c., “to declare or state formally or solemnly,” from Old French protester, from Latin protestari “declare publicly, testify, protest” (see protest (n.)). Original sense preserved in to protest one’s innocence”

(Protest Etymology).

Therefore, even by the meaning of the word itself, a Protestant is one who testifies forth, and yes there are times when protest is necessary, but it it necessary because of what we affirm and testify forth, not the other way around. A protestant is one who testifies forth the truth of the gospel based on God’s Word. Anyone who does not do this is not a Protestant no matter how much he may be opposed to Rome’s papal claims. As Protestants, it is vital for us to keep our eyes on what we are for, and that is Jesus Christ, otherwise we run the risk of forgetting our “first love” (Revelation 2:4). Instead, may our “love and faith and service and perseverance” and “deeds” grow “greater than at first” (Revelation 2:19) as we fix “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Soli Deo Gloria!

It is Undeniable that the New Testament Teaches Jesus is God

Anthony W Brooks

I am often dumfounded at the attempts that people make to tell me the New Testament nowhere teaches that Jesus is God… All I need is three verses to disprove this monstrous assertion, but first I want to make an apology.

 

My apology is for the extended break I took from the blog. That is my fault and I apologize for not letting you know.

 

Now, my evidence.

 

John 1:1-2- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

This well-known verse has been abused by opponents of the incarnation for millennia, starting with the arians all the way up to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others. It says two things: 1. The Word (Jesus, see v.14) was God. What is clearly in view here is that Chirst (Called here Logos, or the Word) is God. He was also “with” God. This is clearly distinguishing between the persons, as in Jesus is not the Father, the Father is not the Son, etc. This is a necessary distinction to be had. 2. All things were made through him. He was a necessary and active component in creation. If he is God as we said above, then it is not shocking to owe creation to him, since all creation belongs to God alone.

Colossians 1:15-16 -“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”

This verse is confusing at times. But I think we can unpack it consistently. 1. He is the image if the invisible God. This is not the same thing as our image. Since God is uncreated [see comments above on John 1:1-2 about the Word being God] this simply means that Christ is God made visible. 2. Firstborn of all creation. This gets a little tricky so I’ll quote the Reformation Study Bible on this point:

“Paul is not saying that the Son was the first created being (v. 17 note). In the Old Testament, a firstborn son would be the principal heir of an estate (Deut. 21:17; cf. Ex. 4:22Ps. 89:27). Used of Christ, the term “firstborn” means that He has such honor and dignity, not that He was the oldest child in a family. Christ is especially loved by His Father (v. 13), and all things were created in Him, by Him, and for Him (vv. 16, 17).”

Source here.

3. By him (Jesus) all things were created. By Jesus all things were created in heaven and earth. He is the preexisting one, the text makes this clear. He is again paired with the text of the Genesis creation account.

Colossians 2:9-10- “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”

1. In him (Jesus) is the fullness of deity. Deity here is θεότης which is “Theotes”. This word means literally “that which makes God himself” Or “that which makes God “God””, aka deity. A clear reference to Christ being of the same substance as the Father and can be compared with Isaiah’s Temple vision (Isaiah 6).

2. Him who is the head head of all rule and authority. As in “He’s the head of everything, aka, he’s God. No one is higher or grander than He.

 

Long story short, Jesus is given explicit credit as God in the New Testament. Nothing is higher or greater than him who is creator of all and the firstborn son (heir of the Father). God of God, light of light, Very God of Very God. There is much much more that we can bring out to prove this point. Jesus is often placed in subordination to the Father. This is certainly true in the New Testament. But the Reformed view is clear that this is not eternal subordination, and that this is not evidence against his (Jesus’) deity. When we consider these texts, we need to consider the thought that flows through the Gospels and into the apostle’s teaching. They are not at odds with each other.

Soli Deo Gloria!

INFANT BAPTISM IN CHURCH HISTORY

Anthony W. Brooks

Baptism is always a hot topic. In the Baptist church I was an avid opponent of Infant Baptism and saw it as part of a corrupt papist false gospel. So, what changed my mind? Well, Biblical consistency and covenant relationships helped… Also, the Biblical consistency of Covenant Theology. But I am also an advocate of historical theology as well. I believe that it doesn’t matter how much sense an argument makes, but if it isn’t believed in the first 500 years of the church, it shouldn’t be believed.

One of the greatest arguments against paedobaptism is that there is no explicit command in scripture to baptize our children…. and this is true. But that would mean that many other doctrines that we believe to be true in scripture can’t be believed because they aren’t explicit (e.g. Trinity, Hypostatic Union, Sola Fide, etc…). So I will post a list of Early Church quotes that date back to 125 AD.

Disclaimer**The quotes listed are not representative of the beliefs of this blog as they contain perspectives not accepted or defended by this blog, but are mere quotes that support the historicity of Infant Baptism**Disclaimer

Irenaeus

“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age” (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).
“‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]” (Fragment 34).

Hippolytus

“Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).

Origen

“Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous” (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3 [A.D. 248]).
“The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248]).

Cyprian of Carthage

“As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born” (Letters 64:2 [A.D. 253]).
“If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another” (ibid., 64:5).

Gregory of Nazianz

“Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Do you fear the seal [of baptism] because of the weakness of nature? Oh, what a pusillanimous mother and of how little faith!” (Oration on Holy Baptism 40:7 [A.D. 388]).
“‘Well enough,’ some will say, ‘for those who ask for baptism, but what do you have to say about those who are still children, and aware neither of loss nor of grace? Shall we baptize them too?’ Certainly [I respond], if there is any pressing danger. Better that they be sanctified unaware, than that they depart unsealed and uninitiated” (ibid., 40:28).

John Chrysostom

“You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members” (Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21 [A.D. 388]).

Augustine

“What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [A.D. 400]).
“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).
“Cyprian was not issuing a new decree but was keeping to the most solid belief of the Church in order to correct some who thought that infants ought not be baptized before the eighth day after their birth. . . . He agreed with certain of his fellow bishops that a child is able to be duly baptized as soon as he is born” (Letters 166:8:23 [A.D. 412]).
“By this grace baptized infants too are ingrafted into his [Christ’s] body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive . . . gives also the most hidden grace of his Spirit to believers, grace which he secretly infuses even into infants. . . . It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s Body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture, too. . . . If anyone wonders why children born of the baptized should themselves be baptized, let him attend briefly to this. . . . The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of regeneration” (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:9:10; 1:24:34; 2:27:43 [A.D. 412]).

Council of Carthage V

Item: It seemed good that whenever there were not found reliable witnesses who could testify that without any doubt they [abandoned children] were baptized and when the children themselves were not, on account of their tender age, able to answer concerning the giving of the sacraments to them, all such children should be baptized without scruple, lest a hesitation should deprive them of the cleansing of the sacraments. This was urged by the [North African] legates, our brethren, since they redeem many such [abandoned children] from the barbarians” (Canon 7 [A.D. 401]).

Council of Mileum II

“[W]hoever says that infants fresh from their mothers’ wombs ought not to be baptized, or say that they are indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but that they draw nothing of the original sin of Adam, which is expiated in the bath of regeneration . . . let him be anathema [excommunicated]. Since what the apostle [Paul] says, ‘Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so passed to all men, in whom all have sinned’ [Rom. 5:12], must not be understood otherwise than the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who in themselves thus far have not been able to commit any sin, are therefore truly baptized unto the remission of sins, so that that which they have contracted from generation may be cleansed in them by regeneration” (Canon 3 [A.D. 416]).
Soli Deo Gloria!
Photo: My Son’s Baptism at Christ the King Presbyterian Church (OPC)

A Question Asked is a Question Answered: What is my favorite Study Bible?

Question to Anthony W. Brooks

On a post I wrote about a month ago I received a question via Gmail asking me what my favorite Study Bible was. The post aimed to objectively grade known Reformed Study Bibles on a number of aesthetics. You can read it here. But I never said what my favorite study bible is. Well, no doubt, it was in the post, and the answer might shock everyone here, but I’ll tell you.

Before I tell you what it is and where you can buy one I want to tell you what I look for in a Bible before I buy one. Bibles are not about aesthetics with me. They don’t have to look and smell pretty for me to buy one, but they do have to be in an accurate translation, with good layouts, and quality materials. I don’t want to buy a Bible that is only going to last a year. I want a Bible that will be a joy to me for many years, and so far, that is my experience with that criteria.

My Favorite Study Bible

There are many things about my favorite Study Bible that might only be appealing to me. That is why I need to stress this point, that not everyone will like this study bible and there is need to research all the possible contenders before you invest in a study bible for yourself. Don’t just take my word for it…

Here it is, My favorite Study Bible!

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Isn’t this surprising! A KJV Bible won my heart… But it is true. The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible is my favorite. Let’s get into specifics as to why I chose this beauty.

Layout!

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This is a clean page out of 2nd Samuel. There are many things to consider here. First thing that stands out is that there are no chapter introductions or cross references. The norm in a study bible is a center or side column cross reference system and that isn’t here. All references are included in the footnotes at the bottom. Also the chapter headings are at the bottom as well introducing the footnotes on a particular chapter. This allows the scripture text to be clean and readable for the reader, and keeps all man made additions (aside from the chapter and verse divisions) to stay in one place for reference if need be.

Personal and Family Worship Study Questions

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This is unique among study helps. This study bible was commissioned by Joel Beeke (a puritan expert) who has stressed the need for family worship in the home. His study bible is no different and is built to aid the family in this endeavor. At the end of each chapter there are sections for family worship questions and thoughts to aid in instruction on these issues.

Extras!

This Bible has plenty of extras to aid a growing and conscientious Christian. Mind you, this is a Reformed study bible, so all of the aids and extras will be Reformed in nature. So if that isn’t your mindset, this Bible isn’t for you.

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This cool section is a brief outline of church history. It goes century by century through history and hits all of the highlights.

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The top of the cake is that you can carry your book of confessions around with you. The necessary creeds of the faith along with the “Six Forms of Unity” as I call them.

Apostle’s Creed

Nicene Creed

Athanasian Creed

Belgic Confession

Heidelberg Catechism

Westminster Confession

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Westminster Larger Catechism

And even better is that all of these confessions and catechisms are contain scriptural annotations to look up the relevant passages of scripture.

Cons!

There are cons for people looking into buying this Bible. This Bible is only available in the KJV. I was raised on the King James Version so I do not mind this being my regular reference. But for some people a modern version is a better option.

This Bible doesn’t have a central reference system. All necessary references are contained in the footnotes. For those who find a columned reference Bible useful and preferred, this isn’t for you.

This is a classically Reformed study system. The Young, Restless, Reformed believers who don’t accept Classic Reformed Confessions, Reformed Ecclesiology, or Eschatology this isn’t for you. It also has a cessationist leaning as well as opposed to continuationism.

What I carry it in!

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I carry it in a simple charcoal gray zipper case. There is about half an inch around the side of the case for the Bible to breath. I keep my Pigma Micron in the pen-holder inside so I can study anywhere and write notes as needed.

Where can you buy one?

You can get one as cheap as $24 here.

Soli Deo Gloria

Why all believers should spend some time in the King James (Authorized) Version

By Anthony W. Brooks

There was a time in my life where all I read was the KJV. When I was in private school, I learned the history of the King James translation, and was sold on it’s accuracy. I carried this conviction all the way into college where my New Testament professor threatened me with failing grades if I didn’t use a modern translation. Of course, I did eventually make use of other translations like the ESV. But recently the Lord has been reviving my love of the Authorized Version. And because of this, I want to encourage all believers to make use of the King James and spend at least some time exploring this historic translation.

  1. It is the translation of our forefathers of the Faith.

As protestants we can look throughout history and see the AV as the translation of our forefathers. This can go deeper than just translation into discussions of the Critical Text vs the Majority Text traditions but lets just say that the manuscript and translational traditions are what was in use until the dawn of the Critical Text. This should bring a certain nostalgia into our minds to look back and experience the past of our faith. What did Matthew Henry or Charles Haddon Spurgeon read when they were writing their sermons? How about John Edwards or John Wesley? They used the AV.

  1. It is a difficult read.

This translation has at least a 12th grade reading level, higher than most of us can comprehend (believe it or not). But this has an added benefit of forcing us to think about what we are reading as we read it. Translations with lower reading levels are often seen as hard to comprehend because they are breezed through by the reader and they come out not comprehending what they read. With translations of higher levels, they force the reader to contemplate the meaning of words and sentences so as to understand the meaning of the text. The AV is no different. When I read the AV I actually have to think about the words I am reading and try to understand them so I don’t butcher them while I read.

  1. It is poetic.

The AV is actually considered a literary masterpiece in the world of literature. It is poetic and uses high Elizabethan English. This makes it a work of art and beautiful to read.

All in all, I believe that the common believer should spend some time reading the King James (Authorized Version). I believe doing so will allow the believer to appreciate where the church has been and where it is going. It will also allow the believer to see and appreciate the history of the English Bible and give insight into the common Bible you hold in your hand.

The Lord’s Day And Why It Stands

Maverick Victor Witlouw

The church has historically held that Sunday, the Lord’s Day is the Christian day of worship (Rev 1:10). It is the challenge of dispensational and New Calvinism’s “New Covenant Theology” that makes this affirmation difficult. Various New and Progressive Covenanters, if they could even be called “covenantal” propose that the Sabbath has been “abolished in Christ.” Why do those of us in the Reformed confessional streams of theology deny this claim?

An Arbitrary Hermeneutic

“New Covenant” theologians lament that somehow only the reinstated commandments found in the New Covenant are those we should keep. They continue that only 9 commandments, rather than all 10 are mentioned. What can we say about this?

Firstly, this hermeneutic is absurd flat on its face. It is based solely on an assumption that cannot be proven. The Old Testament was legitimately seen as canonical and relevant to the New Covenant church (2 Timothy 3:16 cf. Rom 13:10; Galatians 5:14; 1 Cor 14:21; Eph 6:1-3; 1Tim 1:8-10). Even at the Acts 15 Council, the Law was seen as useful, “For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:21) Waldron rightly points out, “the Christian is under the Law as a rule of life. He is obligated to obey its instruction in righteousness.” (2017:18) The Old Testament was seen as inspired, and a rule of faith, the apostolic/prophetic revelation and tradition, namely the New Testament should be seen as an authentic and inspired commentary of the Old Testament not as a replacement.

Second, Christ’s own admission refutes any claim that Sabbath would be abolished: “”Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18. For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished. 19. Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20. For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt 5:17-20) The only laws that the Scriptures present as being “not for today,” are those positive laws (ceremonial and civil laws), “For the priesthood being changed, there is of necessity a change made also in the law.” (Heb. 7:12 cf. Ephesians 2:15) It is important to note here that the Reformed distinction between moral, ceremonial and civil laws are not arbitrary; but rather they present a dichotomy between essential/moral laws which are transcovenantal, and positive laws which are time-bound expressions of the one covenant of grace. The New Covenant presents a positive institution of the Lord’s Supper and baptism (Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:25), which replaces the positive institutions of the ceremonial law of the Old Covenant (Heb 8:6; 12:24).

Third, Christ himself points to the natural or moral aspect of the Sabbath law. He states, “He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Matt 2:27) Christ furthermore identifies himself as the Lord of the Sabbath, indicative of the fact that the Sabbath was a divine institution rather than a time-bound Old Covenant practice (Matt 2:28). Considering this alongside the Sabbath’s consecration at creation, it is hard to simply dismiss the on-going validity of the Sabbath law (Genesis 2:2-3).

A proper Christological hermeneutic does not assert something arbitrary. NC Theologians need to indicate to us why the Sabbath has been abolished when the emphatic teaching of the New Testament implies something else (Matt 5:17-20). The Decalogue by necessity stands, as Christ demonstrated. The conclusion of NCT theologians is one that therefore leads to a precarious and dubious premise, the premise of Genesis proclaims a Sabbath rest before the Mosaic covenant, and Christ does not seem to water this down in his own declaration,

Sunday or Saturday?

I do not intend to go into lengthy discussions and proposals as to why the Reformed church has historically held to a first-day observance/administration of the Sabbath. But I will point a few things out:

Firstly, the Sabbath is a creation ordinance (Genesis 2:2-3). The consecration of the Sabbath at the creation did not have specific stipulations. The Mosaic stipulations came after the giving of the Law, before that the rationale or stipulations for the Sabbath were not positive spelled out as is here found (Exodus 20:8-10; 35:2). These Mosaic stipulations are bound to the Mosaic covenant, therefore the New Covenant administration of the Sabbath need not be seen as the necessity of the seventh day (Waldron 2017:22-25). At the same time, I concede Waldron’s other point, “It is possible to argue for a Christian Sabbath without necessarily presupposing the creation ordinance. One need only see that as the Sabbath memorialized the redemption of Israel from Egypt to rest in Canaan, so the Lord’s Day memorializes the redemption of the Church in Christ to the resurrection-rest of the Eternal Sabbath.” (2017:60) No matter how someone is able to spin it, the Sabbath stands on both the fact that it was consecrated at creation, and at the same time the covenantal unity between Old and New covenants.  The NCT hermeneutic unnecessarily over spiritualizes the clear practice of Sabbath-keeping, something which is not warranted by the text. A proposition that supposes that the Sabbath has been abolished in Christ is as valid as saying that we no longer keep the rest of the commandments, simply because they have been fulfilled. It is altogether dubious.

Secondly, the Sabbath is natural as marriage. Marriage just like the Sabbath, was instituted at creation, yet in the same sense and the same (or similar) way, marriage did not have specific stipulations, expect the essential stipulations given at Genesis (Genesis 2:24). Christ when correcting a faulty understanding of marriage did not point to the Mosaic administration, he rather alluded to natural/moral law, as it was in the beginning (Mark 10:6). When NCT and dispensationalist theologians propose their understanding of the Sabbath, we have only to point to the way it has always been – that from beginning, there has always been one day in seven that had to be kept as holy.

Third, the church gathered on the first day of the week rather than the seventh (Rev. 1:10; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2). At least, this is what we know historically and it is found upon the premise that Christ was risen on the first not the seventh day (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:2-9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1-19). The apostolic/ecclesiastical pattern shows that the first day, was the day of corporate worship and rest for the church. Historically also, the term “Lord’s Day,” “κυριακη ημερα” (Rev 1:10) coincides with the “the Lord’s Supper,” “κυριακον δειπνον” (1 Cor 11:20) in the original Greek.  Here then we view the Lord’s Supper as a Sunday institution of the church. It needs to be rightly pointed out that the term “Lord” in both are adjectives not nouns. It is the “Lord’s-day” and the “Lord’s-Supper,” not merely the day and supper of the Lord. Herein, there is a separation between the eschatological day of the Lord and the Lord’s Day (2 Peter 3:10). Remember the Lord’s Supper; namely “the breaking of bread” was the practice for the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) “They are marked by the only two occurrences of the strong possessive form of “Lord” in the New Testament, κυριακος. In 1 Corinthians 11:20, we read of the Lord’s Supper, and in Revelation 1:10 of the Lord’s Day—both memorialize the redeeming work of Christ. Just as the Passover memorialized the sacrifice that secured the redemption, so also the Lord’s Supper recalls the great sacrifice that finished redemption. As the Sabbath memorializes the blessing purchased in the Exodus, so also the Lord’s Day reminds us of Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits of redemption.” (Waldron 2017:58) In the mind of the Jew, what Christians were doing, was in fact, functionally, a Christian Sabbath, “and make my Sabbaths holy; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am Yahweh your God.” (Ezekiel 20:20)

Important also is Waldron’s other comment, “Jews, like the disciples of Christ, were prepared to see the significance of Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week by the peculiar significance of first and eighth days in the Old Testament economy. These days were not necessarily, of course, the first (or eighth) day of the week—but that is not the point. Despite this, the fact remains that, in a pervasive way, the Old Testament economy was fitted to give the impression of a special religious significance associated with first and eighth days in succession. It is this general impression that prepared the Jewish disciples of Christ to give more than passing interest to the fact of Christ’s first-day resurrection. With reference to the first day, a number of considerations are significant. The first day of Passover was a holy assembly (Exo 12:15-16; Lev 23:7; Num 28:18). The first day of the Feast of Booths was a holy assembly (Lev 23:35, 39).” (2017:72)

Explicit Sabbatarian Expectations in the New Testament

Finally, there are positive commands in the New Testament which indicate that principle of Sabbath-keeping stands for Christians.

Hebrews 4:9, “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”
Hebrews 10:25, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.”

The explicit teaching here is that there remains a “Sabbath-keeping” for the people of God (the new covenant church – 4:9), paralleled by “not forsaking our own assembling together.” (10:25) Waldron remarks, “In fact, precisely because it is fulfilled in Christ, it is continued in the Lord’s Day. We have to do here with the peculiar effect that the overlapping of the ages (the old and new creations) have upon the typical institutions of the Old Covenant. Notice how the following diagram of the relations of Sabbath and Lord’s Day parallels that of Passover and Lord’s Supper.” (2017:59) Hebrews 4 notes that the people of God (in the Old Testament) needed faith to enter into the rest, this is comparable to us who need to enter into the rest as well. Hebrew’s point is that there remains a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God, as we wait for the Day (the eschatological Sabbath coming in the future) – Hebrews 10:25. The term for “sabbath-keeping” (4:9) is “sabbatismos,” Richard Barcellos, graciously making a snippet of his book available on the Confession Baptist site remarks,

“That which “remains” is “a Sabbath rest.” The noun “a Sabbath rest” (σαββατισμὸς [sabbatismos]) is used only here in the Bible. Various cognate forms of it are used in the Septuagint (LXX) in at least four places (Exod. 16:30; Lev. 23:32; 26:34; 2 Chron. 36:21). Each use in the LXX, when referring to men, refers to Sabbath-keeping in terms of an activity in the (then) here and now… Something interesting occurs in the LXX version of Leviticus 23:32a. The LXX text reads as follows: σάββατα σαββάτων ἔσται ὑμῖν (sabbata sabbatōn estai hymin). The NASB translates this verse: “It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you.” The word σάββατα in the LXX compliments the verb “to be” (ἔσται). The word σαββάτων (“of complete rest”) modifies σάββατα. Both nouns clearly refer to an activity, a Sabbath-keeping to be rendered by those addressed in the passage. In Leviticus 23:32b of the LXX a verb is followed by its direct object as follows: σαββατιεῖτε τὰ σάββατα ὑμῶν (sabbatieite ta sabbata hymōn [“you shall keep your sabbath”]). Here a Sabbath for the people of God to keep is pressed upon them, explicitly by verbs and implicitly by nouns. Also, in each case the word “Sabbath” is the same used by Moses in Genesis 2:2, “and He rested on the seventh day” (emphasis added). Pertinent to our discussion as well is the fact that God’s creational rest in the LXX of Exodus 20:11 is referred to with the verb κατέπαυσεν (katepausen), the same word translated “rest” in Hebrews 3 and 4. In the LXX, what for the Creator is “rest” implies a Sabbath day to be kept for creatures. Hebrews 3 and 4 seem to follow this septuagintal pattern” (Barcellos 2016:n.p.).

Just as the Sabbath of the old covenant looks back to the Sabbath at the old creation, the New Covenant’s Lord’s day looks forward to the eschatological Sabbath in eternity.

Furthermore, my final consideration is based on the Decalogue itself. On what premise do we base that the law of the Decalogue has been superseded by a new law? The transcovenantal nature of the Decalogue is clearly seen in the Messiah’s own point, which namely the Law will always stand (Matthew: 17-20). It is interesting that Christ never once really attacks the Mosaic Law; he rather puts the erring application of the Law in his time on trial. He has an issue with “what is said,” (Matthew 5:38; 42) but not what “what is written”. These Matthew 5 points which Christ speaks about is emphatically not Christ criticizing the Law as I have heard, but rather the erring application of the Law, probably the currently Rabbinic interpretations or some erringly Jewish understandings. Christ hereby interprets what the Law is really about, and interprets it giving it a better understanding. I propose that this is what is meant by “the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). The Law of Christ is not some kind of ethereal kind of commandment floating in the air applied by some kind of subjective feeling of love, nor is it utterly distinct from the Decalogue (2 Cor 3:3).

Conclusion

It is hard to fight a theological position which is propagated ad nauseam in Christian book stores. Dispensationalism and her daughter NCT continue to influence theological academia. As for those of us in the Reformed tradition, we propose a strong antidote to a theological position which hinges upon a faulty assumption. The Sabbath, the Lord’s Day stands. The Decalogue has not been abolished, and I find no basis to conclude that NCT can legitimately present itself without some drastic error. I would rather do what God commands, than build a theology of the Sabbath on silence.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Bibliography

Waldron S 2017. The Lord’s Day: Its Presuppositions, Proofs, Precedents, and Practice.  Chapel Library. Pensacola, Florida

Barcellos R 2016. Getting the Garden Wrong: A Critique of New Covenant Theology on the Covenant of Works and the Sabbath. Founders Press, from a forthcoming book. (http://confessingbaptist.com/upcoming-book-snippet-on-the-remaining-sabbatismos-for-the-people-of-god-heb-49-richard-barcellos/)